Marymount really shaped me into who I am: 2019 graduate returns home to Puerto Rico in pursuit of international law career

Every year, large numbers of U.S. college students decide to attend a higher education institution far away from home in the hopes of getting a fresh start and gaining more independence, and maybe even finding a new home for their post-graduation lives as well.

But for Carla Clavell, her four years spent at Marymount University – more than 1,500 miles from her Puerto Rico home – gave her the tools she needed to continue her academic journey back on her home island after earning her bachelor’s degree. In 2019, she completed her B.A. in Politics with a Communication minor at Marymount, and is now studying law at the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Clavell has always dreamed of a legal career. Originally, she wanted to become a governmental legal aide, but realized this was not her ideal path after an internship on Capitol Hill. She found her path by participating in multiple Global Classroom Series courses while at Marymount, as well as a semester abroad in Madrid – experiences which opened her eyes to various possibilities.

“I liked going to other places, learning about other cultures, relating that culture to my own and seeing what makes us human.” 

Clavell in Madrid, Spain, where she spent a semester abroad in Spring 2017 at Saint Louis University.

Clavell’s growth while abroad also changed how she related to her Latina identity back in the United States.

“Puerto Rico’s history is not taught in the U.S., so I had this opportunity of being Puerto Rican myself and getting to educate others,” Clavell said. “Maybe it helped that I have gone to different places around the world and was able to understand other cultures, but I felt like I should be proud – that I should share it, because it’s part of who I am.”

Clavell participated in Dr. Matthew Bakker’s Sociology course on Global Inequality and Community Development in Havana, Cuba.

These experiences have her torn between pursuing family law or international law, but her time at Marymount has Clavell leaning towards a future with the International Court of Justice. She says she appreciates international law’s manner of immersing oneself in the history of another country to better understand its problems, and then approaching them in a way that is respectful of that country’s unique history.

“I really like the idea of solving disputes between countries,” Clavell added. “Going into law school, I wanted to help people within their settings. I guess that was my fuel for international law, because it correlates wanting to help people and going to different places, relating to their culture.” 

In Belize, Clavell learned about local fauna and flora through the Marine Biology and Tropical Ecology course taught by Dr. Todd Rimkus. She also tracked turtles in collaboration with the Hawksbill Hope NGO, and engaged with the local Gales Point community.

Her Marymount education also taught Clavell how to approach political and legal situations. As an example, she recalls a Politics and Media course taught by Dr. Margaret Tseng which analyzed how media outlets portray social issues, using politicians’ rhetoric and reinterpreting it for the common media consumer.

Today, Clavell looks back fondly at her time in Marymount, and hopes others are able to do the same by taking advantage of their time at the University.

“Get out there and meet people, go to events. You get to know people from the whole world that you meet walking down the hall – sit down and have a conversation with them. It’s how you learn about that person and where they’re from,” she said. “Also, study abroad if you have the chance. Any program with the Center for Global Education (CGE) really changes your viewpoints and perspectives.”

“Marymount really shaped me into who I am,” Clavell said proudly. “Living in the dorms, working with the CGE or going to class – it shaped my professional ethics and my values, who I am and what I want to portray to the world. And that’s present within me in every law school class, in who I am and what I want to do. I carry it with me.”

During her senior year, Clavell traveled with Dr. Jace Stuckey’s Ancient Greece and Rome course to Athens, Greece, where she and her classmates fully immersed themselves in the country’s history while forming lifelong bonds.